Each state in America has its own specific laws regulating adoption. Getting familiar with Texas adoption laws can help you make the best decisions and have the most positive outcomes.
Talking about adoption can be an emotional roller coaster. It can bring feelings of joy, anxiousness, nervousness, and even fear. Perhaps the least pleasurable part about discussing adoption is discussing adoption laws.
Adoption laws are put in place to protect the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. Each adoption consists of unique circumstances for each child and family. Therefore, there are variations of laws to accommodate these differences.
Learning about Texas adoption laws will give you an upper hand when going through the adoption process. In this article, you will learn who can be adopted and what the requirements are to adopt, you will also be guided through birth parent laws and rights in Texas, and an overview of the adoption process in Texas will be touched on.
Texas Adoption Laws
Who Can Be Adopted in Texas?
In order for a child to be adopted in Texas, the parental rights of that child must be terminated. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The types of termination include voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary termination takes place when birth parents choose to place their child for adoption. The parents may find they are not prepared for the responsibility of parenthood. Or, they could find themselves in a situation where they are unable to care for a child. There are a number of reasons for choosing to terminate parental rights.
According to Texas adoption laws, a birth mother must wait a minimum of 48 hours after giving birth before consenting to terminate her parental rights. A birth father may terminate his rights at any time during the pregnancy or after birth.
Involuntary termination happens when birth parents are deemed unfit to care for their child. This type of termination usually happens after a child is placed in foster care.
The goal in Texas is to establish reunification between birth parents and children. However, there are times when reunification just is not possible.
In the event that the birth parents cannot establish reliability to provide a safe, nurturing home for children to live in, their parental rights are terminated by the state. This allows the child to be available to be adopted by someone else. If the prospective adoptee is 12 years old or older, they must give their consent to being adopted.
Who Can Adopt in Texas?
In the state of Texas, any adult may adopt a child. You do not have to be married in order to adopt.
In order to proceed with an adoption, a home study must be completed by an adoption agency. Additionally, all other documentation relating to an adoption must be provided and fees must be paid before an adoption can be finalized.
Adoptive parents must be 21 years old or older and must be found financially stable and living in a home that will provide adequate space for a child.
Texas Adoption Laws Regarding Birth Parents and Expenses
Texas adoption laws do ask potential adoptive parents to assist the prospective birth mother with certain expenses during her pregnancy. This helps alleviate some financial pressures and stress for the birth mother. However, it is illegal for birth mothers to be paid in exchange for placing her child with anyone.
What Are the Financial Obligations of Adoptive Parents?
Texas adoption laws assign adoptive parents with financial responsibilities that fall into the following categories:
- Housing: Reasonable living expenses for birth mother
- Medical: Prenatal care, pregnancy, and birth expenses
- Support: Necessary legal fees
Since each pregnancy is unique and every pregnant mother is different from the next, it is difficult to estimate how much financial assistance a birth mother will need. Some birth mothers may require more expenses depending on their health or the baby’s health.
There are ways of setting a budget ahead of time with an adoption specialist so you can find adoption options within your budget range.
In the event that the birth parents change their minds and decide to raise the baby on their own, Texas adoption laws do not require the parents to pay back any of the expenses incurred by the potential adoptive parents. However, there are programs that have risk-sharing options for this specific event. These can assist you if you find yourself in this situation.
Birth Mother Rights According to Texas Adoption Laws
The birth mother has the right to make decisions regarding the birth and care she and the baby receive, as long as she is not under the influence or jeopardizing the health and safety of the baby. Birth mothers also have the right to change their minds whenever they choose to during the pregnancy and shortly after birth.
It is important to acknowledge this right because there is always the chance someone will change their mind in the final moments. This change can occur on the side of the adoptive parents or the birth parents.
Adoption is an exciting adventure, and it is difficult to not get attached to the thought of growing your family. However, you do need to thoroughly understand that until the adoption has been finalized, many things could occur throughout the process that prevents or stalls your adoption.
Other Birth Parent Rights
In Texas, the birth mother is not the only person who is considered when finalizing adoption. The birth father also has rights. Additionally, the grandparents on both the mother’s and the father’s sides have rights.
Texas Adoption Laws and Advertising
In Texas, it is illegal to advertise for an adoptive family or an adoptee outside of an adoption agency. Adoption professionals in Texas may advertise on behalf of the birth parents and the adoptive parents in order to find the right adoption match.
This law was designed to assist adoptive parents seeking licensed adoption agencies that provide correct and legal information about adoption. This law also protects children against backdoor, illegal adoptions that could lead to human trafficking.
If families choose to go the route of independent adoption, they must work closely with an attorney who is well-versed in adoption and Texas adoption laws.
How to Understand if You Are Following Texas Adoption Laws
While laws aren’t always set in stone and can change or be updated frequently, it is best that you find an adoption agency to go through when considering adoption. This will help you keep current with any changes that may come along.
There are many Texas adoption agencies you can go through that have specific connections to The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Going through one of these agencies will ensure you are following Texas adoption laws and will be entering into appropriate legal relationships.
Conducting your own legal research is also recommended so you can learn which adoption agencies you can trust, which ones have positive reviews, and which ones have a good relationship with DFPS.
How to Adopt in Texas Based on Texas Adoption Laws
There are many requirements to adhere to when adopting a child. If you choose to adopt a child in Texas, there are state-specific requirements that must be met in order for an adoption to be finalized.
To begin the adoption process in Texas, there are three options to get the ball rolling toward growing your family. The first two options have you working closely with state professionals within DFPS. The third option allows you to work with an adoption agency that is simply contracted through DFPS.
Requirements for Adopting in Texas
Requirements for adopting in Texas consist of being or doing the following:
- A responsible, mature adult 21 years old or older
- Financially stable
- Complete an application
- Provide information about your background and lifestyle
- Provide references
- Show proof of marriage and/or divorce, if applicable
- Participate in a home study, which includes visits with all household members
- Consent to a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check
- Attend free training to learn about the issues associated with abused/neglected children
Begin an Application
Before being allowed to fill out and submit an application, you must first attend a meeting about adoption provided by DFPS. This meeting is in a group setting with others considering adoption, so you can learn from each other.
After this meeting, if you still want to adopt, a DFPS professional will give you an application to complete.
Pass Background Checks and Provide References
Each person in the home over the age of 14 must have a background check on file during the adoption process. The Texas Family Code requires all background checks to be passed through FBI fingerprinting, criminal background history, and central registry.
Personal and/or professional references must also be provided from coworkers, employers, church members, neighbors, etc.
The state of Texas requires you to pass their training structure, which includes 35 hours of training broken into 14 steps. The training has options for online and in-person classes. This training you are expected to complete is built upon the PRIDE Model of Practice, and it includes lessons revolving around the following:
- “Protecting and nurturing children;
- Meeting children’s developmental needs and addressing their delays;
- Supporting relationships with birth families;
- Connecting children to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime (permanency); and,
- Working as a member of a professional team.”
Participate in and Pass a Home Study
The Texas home study process has six separate steps to complete. Before the home study can take place, an application fee of $275 must be paid as well.
You can expect the following from the home study process:
- Completing the online application and pay the fee
- Uploading required documents to your online account
- Review of background check and clearances
- In-home visit
- Interviews with all persons living in the home
- Home study updates (if applicable)
This may seem like tedious steps to complete. However, Texas adoption laws were created to ensure the adoptive family and the adoptive child are supported and will be a good match together. Therefore, the extensive application process is for the benefit of all involved.
Based on Texas adoption laws, the post-placement visit series is completed in six visits following the adoption of a child into your home. The purpose of these visits is to ensure all is going well with the finalized placement. This is also an opportunity for the adoptive family to ask any questions and receive any resources needed to continue with a successful placement.
Understanding Texas adoption laws can seem overwhelming. There are many steps to complete as well as many documents to gather throughout the process. However, consider looking at it from an exciting perspective.
Now that you know the laws about who can be adopted, who can adopt, financial obligations, birth mother rights, and other parental rights, you can forge ahead to find the right adoption agency for your family.
You’ve learned about the adoption process in Texas, including the applications, fees, training, references, background checks, home study visits, and post-placement visits. What will your next step be in growing your family? How prepared do you feel after having read this information about what you can expect when adopting in Texas?